Birth is the ultimate miracle. Yet, as much as it is an everyday occurrence, the experience is completely individual.
There’s a lot of hype out there about hypnobirthing. Hypnobirthing has become extremely popular as of late, as more and more celebrities tout the benefits. Among many well-known women, Angelina Jolie used hypnobirthing for the Caesarian birth of her twins and Kate Middleton successfully used hypnobirthing.
As a fertility coach and hypnotherapist specializing in Hypnobirthing, I am trained to provide tools that encourage women to achieve a measure of relaxation during their labor. For many of my clients, that has meant choosing to have a natural birth free of medication. However, a natural birth is not necessarily the goal; rather, my goal is to assist my client to be as relaxed as possible with whatever birth process she chooses that works in her individual circumstances.
Hypnobirthing is a pain relief technique whereby women use a mixture of self-hypnosis, relaxation, and breathing techniques to overcome or reframe pain in labor.
Hypnobirthing’s gentle view of childbirth takes the stance that both mom and baby’s body were created and meant to do this, and a harmonious experience is possible. Mothers can train their brain to elicit a deep relaxation response on demand, thereby using the mind and the natural hormones created for the benefit of the body to master the body rather than focusing on stress or expectations of discomfort during the labor.
The use of hypnosis to ease discomfort in childbirth has a long and distinguished history. The first documented use is in 1920s Russia. In fact, Ferdinand Lamaze learned hypnotic techniques during a visit to Russia, and brought them back to France where he developed the “Lamaze Method” that is still used today. He called it, “childbirth without pain through the psychological method.”
The English obstetrician Grantly Dick-Read, MD, realized that women could break what he termed the Fear-Tension-Pain Syndrome, which causes blood to flow away from the uterus to other large muscle groups such as the legs, when he observed women giving birth in a way that defied his hospital experiences of painful labors. Dr. Dick-Read studied how, with the aid of the naturally occurring state of hypnosis (the trances we go into and out of all day long), a comfortable, quick and painless birth and delivery was possible.
The term “hypnobirthing” was coined by Marie Mongan, M.Ed., M.Hy., a highly esteemed hypnotherapist and Harvard University Ford Foundation Fellow. Her book is the go-to authority on hypnobirthing today.
The British Journal of Anesthesia did an extremely comprehensive study of hypnobirthing. Their conclusion was: “Apart from the analgesia and anesthetic effects possible in receptive subjects, there are three other possible reasons why analgesic consumption during childbirth might be reduced when using hypnosis. First, teaching self-hypnosis facilitates patient autonomy and a sense of control. Secondly, the majority of parturients are likely to be able to use hypnosis for relaxation, thus reducing apprehension that in turn may reduce analgesic requirements. Finally, the possible reduction in the need for pharmacological augmentation of labor when hypnosis is used for childbirth, may minimize the incidence of uterine hyperstimulation and the need for epidural analgesia.”
So, for those of you feeling unsure if hypnobirthing is for you, do your own research, speak to women who have had the “hypnobirthing experience,” and decide on the course of action that you intuitively know is best for you and your family.
I’d like to share my personal journey and experience. I got married at age 30 and then experienced 8 years of unexplained infertility. It took a number of years to admit to myself that we would not be able to have children without medical intervention.
After trying every natural method of conception, every superstition, and every supplement out there, we finally began seeing fertility doctors when I was in my mid-30s. It was an emotionally exhausting and financially challenging road. I felt isolated and sure there must be something really wrong with me. The fact that there was no actual “reason” for not falling pregnant and that it was classified as “unexplained infertility” just exacerbated the situation for me.
Finally, after multiple failed IUIs, we signed up for a package of IVF. I knew we would need more than just one shot at it. My body and mind were crazed from the hormones and medications and my spirit was low from all the injections/shots that were part of this seemingly neverending process.
I decided to take a much needed 6-month break after 3 back-to-back retrievals, a couple failed implantation cycles, and banking some embryos. I wanted to give my body a chance to recuperate and even out after being so out-of-whack with all the meds, shots, blood work and doctor’s visits. My husband and I took some time to go on a dream vacation and, when we got back, we were ready.
I was able to utilize a fertility coach and self-hypnosis tools such as imagery journeys and relaxation through breathing techniques, and all of these things made the difference. The implantation procedure was a success and my eldest son was born 9 months later.
I was terrified throughout the first trimester. Having already had a number of miscarriages, my husband and I wouldn’t allow ourselves to get excited until after we’d passed the various screening tests and were well past the first 12 weeks. But I had been in a very different mental space with that final cycle. It’s like something had just clicked into place when we returned from that trip. I was emotionally and psychologically ready and that preparedness translated to my body as well. I recall going into the fertility clinic feeling positive, hopeful and calm.
There had been a major shift. Thank goodness.
Now, my focus changed to keeping the pregnancy and being as healthy and careful as possible. We didn’t share our news until I’d basically had the baby for nerves of something going wrong. People saw me and my growing belly, but I was not putting it out there on social media. I’m sure many of you who have shared this type of journey can relate.
Nine months after my first child was born, I fell pregnant again. It happened totally naturally and by pure luck. Unlike the first pregnancy, I needed no supplementation, hormones, or progesterone to maintain this pregnancy. Luckily, despite being deemed a “geriatric pregnancy” (any woman over 35 years of age giving birth), the pregnancy proceeded without any problems or complications. Thank God.
We joke that my firstborn is our GMO baby, and our second is our organic, whole foods child.
My birth story with my first was a 17-hour labor. I had a great birth team: I hired a doula, my mother flew in from South Africa, and my husband stayed by my side at the hospital. After laboring in my tub for 5 hours, my water broke and my doula then suggested we go to the hospital. 3 more hours of contractions continued with no progression.
I had arrived at the hospital at a 6 and needed a change. I decided to have an epidural and that allowed me to rest awhile. The nurses then had to give me Pitocin to start the labor back up again. There was the possibility of a C-section as the baby was under strain, especially during the peak of the contractions. After putting out some essential oils, playing calming music, and really focusing on my breathing, things calmed down. I’ll never forget: I had my doula massaging my feet, my husband massaging one arm, and my mom massaging the other. I got into that safe space and finally was able to have a vaginal delivery with very minor tearing. I couldn’t wait to get the iv out of my arm and the medical team were surprised at my insistence to be disconnected and begin my recovery process in earnest.
By the time the second birth came around, I had been honing those relaxation skills and really delving deeper into the hypnosis tools. Once again, I assembled my all-star birth team. My goal was to get to the hospital as close to the birth as possible, in order to minimize my time there since I much preferred my home environment. Once again, I labored in my bathtub, supported by my mother and doula. This time, I used song or humming a tune to shift into a trance state where “pain” was reframed into “discomfort.”
Using various visualization techniques and having practiced numbing various body areas, I was able to create hypno-anesthesia. This time, I was armed with positive affirmations and suggestions, and was able to guide my thoughts and even control my breathing.
Focusing so intently on my goal, and using my imagination and subconscious to transport myself elsewhere while still being absolutely present was a life-shifting experience. It blew me away to understand fully just how powerful our minds are and what is possible with a little reframing and some hypnosis training tools.
This time, my water didn’t break in the tub but, at a certain point, my doula knew it was time to head to the hospital. This time, I got there at 9. The nurses who had been dubious when I waddled in still yelling my special trance tune were now frantically trying to set up the room around me and asking me to wait for the doctor. I was totally in the zone…and less than 30 minutes later my 2nd child was born without any medical intervention whatsoever.
It felt miraculous. I could feel every single push and was able to control it. I had absolutely no tearing and an unbelievably fast recovery.
If this was possible for me…could you believe it is possible for you as well?
After reading my story, if you are still wondering if hypnobirthing is right for you, please consider the following:
In Western culture, many women have an expectation that childbirth will be painful. We often hear “horror stories” of failed epidurals, hours of suffering during labor, vaginal tearing, and botched C-sections. However, in many other cultures, the childbirth experience is non-stressful and comfortable for women.
Here is a quick list of the potential benefits of Hypnobirthing:
- being more in control of yourself and your birth experience
- learning tools for calm, relaxation, and experiencing and reframing pain as discomfort
- being able to utilize these tools in a multitude of other arenas in your everyday life
- if medical intervention is necessary, the hypnobirthing tools are incredibly useful to maintain calm and be present in what could be emotionally difficult circumstances
- babies born with this method are often wide-eyed, and calmer in general
- No medications and associated side effects
- Decreasing stress, fear, and anxiety with calm, quiet strength and positive expectation
- Being alert and awake throughout childbirth
- There is very often a faster recovery time and better postpartum experience
- Feeling heard and supported during your birth experience
If you’re interested in learning more about Hypnobirthing or enrolling in a package to prepare for this sacred journey of birth, please reach out and schedule a complementary 30-minute discovery call. I’d be happy to answer any and all of your questions.
Michal T. Margolese C.Ht. has studied at the prestigious Hypnosis Motivation Institute, the first accredited school for Hypnotherapy in the United States. She is a Certified Hypnotherapist, Certified NLP Practitioner, and holds the Master Certification as a Therapeutic Imagery Facilitator, a member of the American Hypnosis Association and a member of the Hypnotherapists Union Local 472.
In addition, she is an Honors Graduate of the Hypnosis Motivation Institute, awarded for exceptional professional achievement during clinical residency. Michal has many certifications and is continually learning and further honing her skills to better serve her clients.